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Barney Frank

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 19, 2012

    This past weekend, tens of thousands of marijuana reform advocates joined MassCANN/NORML on the Boston Common for the 23rd Annual Boston Freedom Rally. This year’s event was a great success, featuring a mix of engaging speakers, entertaining musical acts, diverse vendors, and beautiful weather. Speakers included Jodie Emery, Rep. Barney Frank, Judge Jim Gray, and countless others. If you missed the event this year, be sure to stay tuned to masscann.org for information on next year’s rally as it becomes available. Check out NORML’s photo slideshow from the event below, in addition to several videos of the rally speakers. See you on the Common in 2013!



    Click here to view NORML’s Flickr set.

    Erik Altieri (NORML)

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    Dr. Sunil Aggarwal

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    Judge Jim Gray (Libertarian VP Nominee)

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    Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

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    More videos are available from MassCann’s livestream archive here.

    (Photos by NORML’s Sabrina Fendrick, Barney Frank and Jim Gray video courtesy of MikeCann.net)

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director April 23, 2012

    The most widely read political website, Politico.com, covers the now clear controversy the Obama Administration has found itself in regarding its semi-articulated medical cannabis policy position post hundreds of law enforcement closures of medical cannabis dispensaries since the fall of 2011.

    Beyond bringing this political quandary regarding medical cannabis to a well informed readership, what is notable about the reportage is that buried in the piece is an apparent recent confrontation between cannabis law reform proponent Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and President Obama at a swank fundraiser directly across the street from NORML’s offices at the St. Regis Hotel where Frank confronted the President about the disparity between his rhetoric in favor of medical cannabis and the recent law enforcement actions of his Justice Department.

    Frustratingly, the President claims that he does not know what is going on in states like California, Washington, Montana and Colorado regarding DOJ’s efforts to seriously retard patient access to medical cannabis.

    Obama sees his history on medical marijuana enforcement differently. The president was again asked about the Justice Department medical marijuana policy at a high-dollar fundraiser at Washington’s St. Regis Hotel filled with liberal mega-donors who paid $35,800 a plate to attend. According to a source with knowledge of the event, which was closed to reporters, Obama reportedly said that the DOJ was raiding purely on a case-by-case basis.

    Frank says he got a frustrating response when he buttonholed Obama to complain that this wasn’t true: Obama told the Massachusetts Democrat that, to the best of his knowledge, the 2009 hands-off policy remained in place.

    Frank told POLITICO that he’s preparing to send the president press clippings to demonstrate that raids continue across the country.

    The tide has turned on the issue — beyond medical marijuana, there’s growing support for full legalization — Frank said, and there’s no reason the president should be lagging behind.

    “Obama now lags Pat Robertson in a sensible approach to marijuana,” said Frank, referring to the conservative evangelical leader’s recent criticism of the drug war.

     

    Obama’s pot promise a pipe dream?
    By: Byron Tau
    April 21, 2012

    President Barack Obama has turned out to be a real buzzkill.

    Back when he was running in 2008, Obama said he supported the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs” and that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” He didn’t go farther. But he also didn’t do anything to dissuade speculation among medical marijuana proponents who took this as a sign that the man headed to the Oval Office was on their side.

    Four years later, the raids on drug dispensaries have kept up — despite a Justice Department memo formalizing low-enforcement priority instructions from Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced in a March 2009 press conference that the raids would stop on distributors who were in compliance with state and local law. Obama never said anything about supporting legalization or decriminalization, but his medical marijuana statements were enough to get him heralded by some in the larger pro-pot community as the best hope for chipping away at the decades-long drug war.

    But the hopes that Obama would be a kinder, gentler, more tolerant drug warrior have gone up in smoke.

    “I’m very disappointed,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization and medical marijuana, told POLITICO. “They look more like the Bush administration than the Clinton administration.”

    The dejected medical marijuana supporters are hardly alone. For many in 2008, candidate Obama was like a political Rorschach test: They projected strong progressive positions about everything from legalizing gay marriage to ending all military involvement onto a candidate who never said he agreed with them — but also never explicitly said he didn’t.

    Now they’re looking at four years into the Obama administration and wondering where they went wrong.

    Read the rest at Politico

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director December 19, 2011

    Barney FrankRep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the primary sponsor of HR 2306: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, appeared on ‘This Week with Christiane Amanpour’ on ABC with fellow guests George Will of the Washington Post and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

    The conversation found its way to marijuana legalization which led to Barney Frank calling out the hypocrisy of most of his conservative colleagues.

    “It’s a great embarrassment to the conservatives,” said Frank, “They want to tell people who they can have sex with. Come on, all this is big government! Who can I have sex with? Who can I marry? What can I read? What can I smoke? You guys, on the whole — not all of you — but the conservatives are the ones who intrude on personal liberty there.”

    The debate got heated between Frank and George Will. “I mean, personal liberty, if someone wants to smoke marijuana who’s an adult, why do you want to make them go to jail?” Frank questioned.

    “I need to know more about whether it’s a gateway drug to other drugs, I need to know how you’re going to regulate it,” George Will replied.

    “Anything is a gateway to anything,” Representative Frank shot back, “That’s the slippery slope argument which is a very anti-libertarian argument. The fact that if somebody is doing something that’s not in itself wrong, that it might lead later on to something else then stop the something else. Don’t lock them up for smoking marijuana.”

    Will defended himself claiming, “What you’re calling a cop-out, I’m calling a quest for information.”

    “How long’s it going to last, George?” Frank asked, “We’ve been doing this for decades.”

    Watch the clip below:

    You can read more coverage of this story here and here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 15, 2011

    Unlike Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen (who favors America having a fair and constitutionally consistent cannabis policy…), the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, simply does not get how hypocritical he is by favoring another 74 years of the failed federal Cannabis Prohibition, while at the same time, being a frequent consumer (and longtime political ally) of far more dangerous and deadly drugs like alcohol and tobacco.

    A NORML supporter from Ohio named Todd recently used NORML’s webpage to contact his elected representative in Congress, who just so happens to be the Speaker of the House John Boehner, to encourage him to become a co-sponsor of the Ron Paul/Barney Frank bill to allow states to legalize cannabis for responsible adult use.

    What Todd did was exactly what tens of thousands of other like-minded NORML supporters have done since late June, when H.R. 2306 was introduced: they contacted their member of Congress and asked them to support the passage of H.R. 2306.

    What cannabis reformers and consumers really need to do now is to send hundreds of thousands of letters and emails to their members of Congress, and to, like Todd, not take ‘no’ for an answer, especially from hypocrites like Speaker Boehner, who maybe one of the capital’s most notorious tobacco addicts and consumer of hard liquor.

    Roll Call photo from a Sept. 2010 event capturing then Minority Leader John Boehner using society's most deadly and addictive drug: Tobacco

    Last October at a fancy Washington restaurant in a section of town called ‘Barracks Row’, a week or so before his ascendency to the Speakership of the House, High Times’ associate publisher Rick Cusick and I watched Mr. Boehner (and five or six of his fellow Republican colleagues from the House, and one from the Senate) continuously leave their table–after rounds of shot glasses of hard liquor were consumed–to stand out in front of the establishment in a circle to smoke cigarettes. We witnessed this kind of excessive ‘drug’ consumption from Congressional leaders for over two hours.

    Mr. Boehner, the son of a bar owner in Ohio, needs to get real and quick regarding losing his Reefer Madness about cannabis and to start treating cannabis consumers with the same respect and dignity that he wants afforded to him as a tobacco and alcohol consumer.

    If not, then, based on his unscientific and non-sensible reply to his constituent in Ohio found below, the man should 1.) stop buying and consuming clearly deadly and dangerous drugs like hard booze and cigarettes and 2.) pass federal laws banning these unhealthy and unsafe products from people who’d be foolish enough to consume them.

    NORML thanks ‘Todd’ from Ohio for being a stand up cannabis law reformer who is not keen to be governed by a hypocrite (who would have him consume drugs much, much less safe—and toxic—than cannabis. Just like him….).

    Boehner writes below: “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.  I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”

    Maybe the Speaker of the House is speaking for himself here as both the science and my own personal experience is crystal clear here: When adults consume cannabis products they consume less—or no—alcohol products.

    I, for one, have always publicly acknowledged that I consume far less alcohol (and don’t binge drink at all) if I have access to cannabis products.

    Further, in the twenty years I’ve worked at NORML and convening dozens of major pro-reform conferences, fundraising parties and events I’ve watched bar managers, restaurant owners and hotel catering managers from coast-to-coast do major double and triple takes on our alcohol consumption bills, insisting that there must be some kind of billing error. When, in fact, if 500 cannabis consumers are attending a NORML soiree, we as a group consume 50%-75% less alcohol than similar size events.

    At a large and famous San Francisco waterfront restaurant that hosted a NORML event a few years back, when I went into the manager’s office at the end of the night to settle the final bill and remit payment, he too was flabbergasted at the dearth of our large group’s alcohol consumption tab and wryly remarked to me: “No wonder ya’ll can’t get pot legalized, because, you’ll cut too deeply into the alcohol industry’s bottom line.”

    Please join Todd and tens of thousands of other citizens who do not support Cannabis Prohibition anymore by contacting your member of Congress and insist that they co-sponsor H.R. 2306.

    The process to lobby your member of Congress is easy, free and necessary to finally—and once and for all—end Cannabis Prohibition in America.

    Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 1:19 PM, Congressman John Boehner wrote:

    Dear Todd:

    Thank you for contacting me regarding the legalization of marijuana.  I appreciate hearing from you.

    On June 23, 2011, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced H.R. 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.  H.R. 2306 would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to provide states with jurisdiction in the regulation of marijuana.  H.R. 2306 has been referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce for consideration.

    According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), “research shows that marijuana use in its raw form is harmful and its average potency has tripled in the past 20 years.”  ONDCP goes on to say that “studies also show teens are using the drug at earlier ages and the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse and addiction.”  In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services stated that “marijuana dependence in the U.S. population is higher than that for any other illicit drug and over 150,000 people who showed up voluntarily at treatment facilities in 2009 reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse.”

    As you know, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified marijuana, together with heroin, LSD, methamphetamines, hashish, and a number of other drugs as Schedule I drugs.  According to the FDA, these drugs carry a high potential for dangerous abuse.  To date, no clinical study of marijuana has progressed to the level required for approval by the FDA.  Even more, the Department of Justice has reiterated its intent to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in states who have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.  I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.

    Thank you again for contacting me with your thoughts.  Please don’t hesitate to inform me of your concerns in the future.  To sign up for email updates, I invite you to visit my website at http://johnboehner.house.gov.

    Sincerely,

    John A. Boehner

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    Dear John Boehner,

    Wow thats a mouthful did someone write that for you.  Your seriously trying to tell me that marijuana is as harmful as lsd, crack, methamphetamines, cocaine,legal sildenafil,merinol and other “chemicals” when marijuana is a plant which is nearly impossible to overdose. You sir are uninformed as are most of our “representatives”, who, are supposed to represent the interest of the people, but end up representing their own interests entirely. I would think that given our current economic crisis, it would be ideal to look objectively at every opportunity to decrease frivolous spending, and increase revenue. By legalizing and taxing marijuana on a federal level, the taxes alone are estimated at billions of dollars annually. Given the annual cost of the failed war on drugs and incarcerated nonviolent marijuana users, the annual savings plus revenue could reach in the hundreds of billions of dollarsNot to mention the tens of thousands of jobs legalizing marijuana would create. This is common sense knowledge and neither you nor the “F.D.A.” can tell me otherwise.

    As for your statement ” I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.” Please elaborate as I do not understand how the legalization and regulation of marijuana on a federal level, will result in increased abuse of other drugs and alcohol. Regulating marijuana will not only decrease it’s availability on the black market, but will also decrease its value, therefore being less available, and of less interest, to teens and other underage people.

    On the subject of the Department of Health and Human Services statement that “marijuana dependence in the U.S. population is higher than that for any other illicit drug and over 150,000 people who showed up voluntarily at treatment facilities in 2009 reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse.” What this statement does not tell you is that roughly 97% of these 150,000 people “voluntarily” showed up because they were given an ultimatum by the courts when found in possesion of marijuana, rather than face probation, or even worse, jail time.

    How about the statement made by Francis Young, the D.E.A.s’ own judge, “Marijuana in it’s natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”  If marijuana is considered a schedule I narcotic with no medicinal benefits, why do we have Marinol, the  synthetic form of T.H.C. (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psycoactive substance found in marijuana?.  And why is the “chemical” Marinol a schedule III drug, meaning it is considered to be non-narcotic and to have a low risk of physical or mental dependence, when it is another form of T.H.C.?. There has never been a documented human fatality from overdosing on tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabis in its natural form. However, the synthetic T.H.C. pill Marinol was cited by the FDA as being responsible for 4 of the 11,687 deaths from 17 different FDA approved drugs between January 1, 1997 to June 30, 2005.

    I would appreciate a personal response from you, rather than one of your pre-writen responses. Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,

    Todd

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 6, 2011

    Let states enact their own marijuana policies

    By Paul Armentano, Special to CNN
    July 6, 2011

    (CNN) — It is hardly surprising that former drug czar William Bennett would, in his CNN.com op-ed, oppose any changes to America’s criminalization of marijuana. But it is surprising that he would lump Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s proposal to allow states the opportunity to enact their own marijuana policy with the effort to legalize drugs.

    Let’s be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not “legalize drugs” or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions. In other words, HR 2306 is just the sort of rebuke to the “nanny state” that conservatives like Bennett otherwise support.

    Barney Frank and Ron Paul: Get feds out of pot regulation

    The House bill mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those 16 states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision.

    It would also permit states that wish to fully legalize (for adults) and regulate the responsible use, possession, production and intrastate distribution of marijuana to be free to do so without federal interference. In recent years, several states, including California and Massachusetts, have considered taking such actions either legislatively or by ballot initiative. It is likely that several additional states will be considering this option in 2012, including Colorado and Washington. The residents and lawmakers of these states should be free to explore these alternate policies, including medicalization, decriminalization and legalization, without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice.

    Of course, just as many states continued to criminalize the sale and consumption of alcohol after the federal government’s lifting of alcohol prohibition, many states, if not most, might continue to maintain criminal sanctions on the use of marijuana.

    But there is no justification for the federal government to compel them to do so. Just as state and local governments are free to enact their own policies about the sale and use of alcohol — a mind-altering, potentially toxic substance that harms the user more than marijuana — they should be free to adopt marijuana policies that best reflect the wishes and mores of their citizens.

    Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?

    Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate,” even as he expressed his opposition. Yet Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently boasted that he would not even consider scheduling HR 2306 for a public hearing.

    There might be another reason people like Smith and Bennett will go to such lengths to try to stifle public discussion of the matter. To do so would be to shine light on the fact that the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand for cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people.

    Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement. Annual data published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and compiled by NORML, finds that police have made more than 20 million arrests for marijuana violations since 1970, nearly 90% of them for marijuana possession offenses only.

    It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states the authority to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

    In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.” How is such a conclusion anything but a scathing indictment of the present policy? After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011″ is an ideal first step.

    Editor’s note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green).

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